By DANICA KIRKA – Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Potential successors to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson raced to differentiate themselves from an increasingly crowded field on Sunday as the ruling Conservative Party set a tight timetable for an election.
The candidates posted slick campaign videos on social media and appeared on Sunday morning political talk shows to pitch their cases to the public. Several promised tax cuts, appealing to rank-and-file members of the Conservative Party for whom low taxes are a mantra.
Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday after more than 50 members of his cabinet and lower-level officials resigned from his government, many citing concerns that his ethical lapses had undermined the government’s credibility.
This sparked the Conservative Party’s internal competition to choose a new party leader. Under British parliamentary government, the next party leader will automatically become Prime Minister without the need for a general election.
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International Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt was the latest to announce her candidacy on Sunday, saying the UK “needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship”. Former health secretaries Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt have joined one of the most open leadership races in recent history late Saturday.
Other contenders include favorite Rishi Sunak, the former Treasury chief, and Nadim Zahawi, who took over from Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer last week. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has not officially announced but is expected to join the race.
The race comes after Johnson, 58, was overthrown by a series of scandalsthe most recent regarding his decision to promote a lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct to a leadership position in his government.
An influential Conservative Party committee is expected to set out the rules for the leadership race on Monday, with reports suggesting Tory lawmakers will narrow the field to two before Parliament recesses for its summer recess on July 21. Party members across the country will then vote on the final choice before the end of August, The Times of London reported.
Johnson said he would remain prime minister until his successor is chosen. But many want him gone now, even some Tory politicians fear he could do some mischief even as caretaker prime minister.
As politicians took to the airwaves to endorse candidates on Sunday, many sought to steer their favorites away from the turmoil of the Johnson years by emphasizing traits such as “integrity” and “honesty.”
Karan Bilimoria, the former president of the Confederation of British Industry, said the decision should be made as soon as possible as businesses still struggling to overcome the impact of the pandemic and now face the growing possibility out of a recession need help now.
“We need to get through this as quickly as possible and find a good leader who can then rebuild trust,” he told Times Radio. “It also restores trust with the country. The country has lost that trust and businesses are very worried.
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